Two-year wait for export re-start

23 March 2001

Two-year wait for export re-start

By Jonathan Riley

BRITISH farmers face a two-year delay after foot-and-mouth is eradicated before meat and livestock exports can resume, claims a senior civil servant.

The high-ranking official, who asked not to be named, has slammed the Governments handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

This comes as an official Government report warns that Britain can expect 4411 cases of the disease by the end of June unless major action is taken.

And confusion exists as to whether the Government plans to extend a precautionary firebreak cull to all parts of Britain.

Government chief scientist David King, who is personally advising Mr Blair on the outbreak, indicated that a pre-emptive cull may be extended across the country.

But Agriculture minister Nick Brown later denied that the Government has decided to include all areas.

Mr Brown is also considering introducing a vaccination scheme in Cumbria, having previously been reluctant to take this action.

The civil servant said a system beset by bureaucracy and petty office politics has been causing delays to the disease eradication programme.

“Ministry of Agriculture staff are working seven days a week and are stretched to the limit. There should have been an emergency plan that swung into action.” He said.

Meat and Livestock Commission officials put the value of British meat and livestock exports at 400 million a year before the crisis.

But the official said: “There is a hope that exports would be allowed to recommence from regions clear of the disease.

“But the way the disease has spread this week, I doubt that will happen. Exports may be lost for two years or more.”

The official said it was clear that other countries had well-rehearsed emergency plans for dealing with the disease when New Zealand vets arrived to help.

“If the disease reaches a certain level they have a set procedure that can be brought in, with contingency plans that can be moulded to fit the disease as it progresses.

“Everything is being referred to a meeting or a committee higher up the line before any decisions are taken.

Animals with antibodies to the disease are certain to turn up many months beyond the last case of the disease, said the official.

Chief government vet Jim Scudamore has admitted that MAFF was unprepared for an outbreak of this scale.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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